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The Search for Christian America Paperback – June 1, 1989

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mark A. Noll is McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, Illinois, and the author and editor of many bestselling books and articles, including "Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," and "A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada," His most recent book is "Protestants in America," In 1998 he inaugurated the McDonald Family Visiting Chair in Evangelical Theological Studies at the Harvard Divinity School.

George M. Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. His books include "Fundamentalism and American Culture", "Jonathan Edwards: A Life", "The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship", and "The Soul of the American University". He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Helmers & Howard Publishers; Expanded ed. edition (June 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939443155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939443154
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This very interesting book is aimed at evangelical Christians but can be read profitably by individuals of any faith, including those who lack religous faith. The 3 authors are all distinguished historians of American religion and also committed evangelical Christians. The goal of this polemic is to rebut ideas popular among evangelicals that the USA was founded as "Christian Nation," that our founding documents are extensions of biblical scripture, and that there has been a recent falling away of the USA from its Christian past. While this book was written approximately 20 years ago, these ideas continue to be popular. As conservative evangelicals have assumed a larger role in political life, there are increasing attempts to move these ideas out of the conservative evangelical Christian community. Some of the proponents of these ideas quoted in this book, like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Falwell, will be familiar from their contemporary roles in political life. Others, like James Dobson, have attained prominence more recently, but espouse doctrines essentially identical to the ones discussed in Search for Christian America.

Noll, Hatch, and Marsden base their critique on two planks. One is simply that the "Christian Nation" version of American history, particularly the early history of the republic, is wrong. Reflecting a large volume of outstanding scholarship, including some produced by the authors, Noll, Hatch, and Marsden, emphasize the relatively modest role that explicitly Christian thought had in the founding of the republic. Indeed, as they point out, some of the most explicitly Christian features of the Revolutionary period, such as Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry, are some of the least attractive features of this period of American life.
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This book is a necessary edition for the Christian seeking a balanced, objective view of American history. The authors firmly establish Christianity's influence in the past without sentimentalizing or idolizing it, yet pay due (and accurate) respect to where Christianity and Christians have influenced history and may continue to influence American society.

The book has held up well since its initial 1980s publication, but recent events cry out for an updated edition.
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A fascinating look at the truly history of Christianity and the American state. The authors present a very well-researched treatise on how our nation has never been a Christian nation- both because such a nation is impossible, and because we have never been truly a Christian people. But the authors don't present there case too extremely- they strongly promote and welcome the idea of America having been influenced substantially by Christians and Christian thinking. Of particular interest was the chapter on the American Rebellion and Revolution, in which they point out only four of the founding fathers- John Jay, John Witherspoon, Roger Sherman, and Patrick Henry- were what we would consider evangelical today, and even they were not putting Christ first in their theology at all times. The vast majority of the rest were of course Deist.

Though these ideas may seem radical to some readers, Noll et.al. presents a great deal of evidence to back up the work, including references to more scholarly work on the their part and a very helpful and informative bibliographic essay at the end. The text is designed for the general public, so is not cluttered with difficult theological or political concepts, or copious notes.

After reading this, I found I could not consider myself "proud to be an American". Not that America is evil. Noll et.al. show clearly that there is a bit of God and a bit of satan in American history and culture, as there is in every society. But the clear presentation of how far America has been from the ideals of the gospel, and how often this gets covered up, was astounding. I am proud of the good parts- the God parts. But, if I once could, I can not now look at the history any longer and see it as something specially greater than that of other histories and other nations.
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Format: Paperback
I remember my seminary class on the History of American Christianity and the professor stating that the fundamentalist view that American was founded and needs to return to her Christian roots is fraught with significant historical errors made me ponder who was telling the truth here?
When I asked him for help, he did the right thing: said, go and look at the evidence yourself: primary historical documents. Giving me some good ones, I soon discovered that not all what the fundies have been telling is the story. Things taken out of context, paraphrased, others overlooked paints an unrealistic, unhistorical view of what they say is "the golden age of American Christianity."
These three prominent Christian historians in this book give great summary of this historical evidence in this book. What harm is done you ask? This book so aptly demonstrates that this distorts our dialogue over current public issues by incorrectly presenting American history.
They carefully expound the dangers of treating the naturalistic ideals of the founders on par with Scipture and likewise a lack of discernment between God's people and worldly culture.
This book is a short, precise and articulate presentation against the overdramatization of our founding history which zealouts then use to bully both those inside and outside the faith for Godly purposes. Higly recommended.
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